In March 2003, Jason Russell, Laren Poole, and Bobby Bailey, three young amateur documentary filmmakers, traveled to Africa in search of a story. The trip resulted in the founding of Invisible Children, a nonprofit organization with a mission to increase public awareness of the activities of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) in Central Africa and its leader, Joseph Kony. In 2004, the three filmmakers released the documentary film Invisible Children: Rough Cut. The trio screened viewings of the movie around the world to raise awareness of the LRA’s practices in the hopes that Joseph Kony would be brought to justice (National Coalition for Dialogue and Deliberation, 2008; Schwartz, 2014). In 2006, Invisible Children facilitated Global Night Commute, a reported 125-city event that saw 80,000 youth sleeping in city centers to raise awareness of and solidarity with children in Uganda who walked at night to avoid capture by the LRA (Invisible Children, n.d.; Schwartz, 2014). Annual revenues quickly increased for Invisible Children. Between 2008 and 2011, the group held steady with yearly income between $8 million and $13 million (Schwartz, 2014). In March 2012, Invisible Children released a 30-minute film that described the LRA’s exploits and promoted the capture of Joseph Kony. The organization initially posted the film to Vimeo, where it garnered limited interest. Once posted to YouTube on Monday, March 5, the film went viral (Wilson, 2012), and 3 days later, the viewer - ship exceeded 40 million views. Over 100 million people viewed the film in 6 days, and it became the fastest growing viral video at that time. High school and university students in the United States had an immense reaction to the video. A Pew poll conducted shortly after the release of the film indicated that 58% of young adults in the United States were aware of the video (Schwartz, 2014).
Journal of Nonprofit Education and Leadership
pre-print, post-print (with 12 month embargo)
Aulgur, Jeff and Bernstein, Ruth, "Invisible Children: Advocacy and Accidental Viral Marketing" (2018). SIAS Faculty Publications. 907.